Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Regrettable Baltic Split

It has now been confirmed that Vaira Vike-Freiberga of Latvia will be the only one of the three Baltic Presidents to attend the May 9th celebrations in Moscow marking the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.

Arnold Ruutel of Estonia and Valdas Adamkus of Lithuania have decided to stay at home.

One can well understand the difficulties they are having with the Moscow celebration. For them, what happened 60 years ago was that one occupation was replaced with another. In a way, that day was the day that sealed their dark fate during the nearly a quarter of a century of Soviet occupation that followed.

And things have certainly not been made easier by Russian insistence that they weren't really occupied, but that there was some voluntary element in their incorporation into the Soviet Union. The controversy over the Stalin-Ribbentropp agreement of August 1939, which really paved the way for WWII by dividing up Eastern Europe between the dictators, is as fierce as ever.

Nevertheless, I think the Estonian and Lithuanian Presidents are making their country a disfavour by not going to Moscow. They will make themselves too easy a target for those in Russia already eager to smear down the record of the Baltic countries during that very difficul period of their history.

We'll see what the reaction will be. But I think it would have been better if they all would have gone.

Hats off for President Vike-Freiberga, who now on her own will have to explain the position of the three Baltic countries when European and world leaders meet in Moscow.